We are proud of the history of our Church and the accomplishments achieved through the labor of love of our founding members, the hard working committed parishioners that have been with us over the years and the visionary clergy that we have been blessed with. We wish to share some of the significant milestones in more detail as a legacy to our founding members and to those who have supported our Church throughout the years.
FOUNDATION AND EARLY HISTORY
Years 1957 – 1958
In 1957, with the encouragement of The Rt. Rev. Father Mytrat Eronim Hrytsyna of the Western Diocese, a group of faithful began to explore the possibility of establishing a second Ukrainian Orthodox (formerly Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox) Church in Edmonton. An initiating committee was formed with the first meeting held on October 13, 1957. The first Divine Liturgy was held at Kendall Hall on October 27, 1957 with Rev. Father Fyk officiating. In the following months regular services were held at an old United Church and then in the homes of parishioners.
On December 22, 1957 following a Divine Liturgy officiated by The Rt. Rev. Father Hrytsyna, an organizational meeting was held that would officially launch the new parish. On that day, sixteen families registered for membership at an annual fee of six dollars. The patron selected for the newly formed parish was St. Elia. On February 21, 1958 the parish was officially registered with the Consistory. A board of directors was elected and on April 22, 1958 a resolution approving the purchase of a parcel of land was approved and the future home of St. Elia’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church was destined to be 11833 – 66 Street, Edmonton.
On June 20, 1958 then Mayor William Hawrelak turned the fist spade of soil and construction was begun. It was anticipated that the building would cost $65,000 and accommodate 250 persons. Financing was a major concern but individual parish members collectively provided promissory notes in sufficient quantity to enable a bank loan to be obtained in the amount of $40,000.00. A donation of $5,000.00 was also received from St. John’s parish in Edmonton and another $1,000.00 from the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada branch at St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Edmonton.
Construction of the Church proceeded rapidly and on Sunday, November 30, 1958 Rev. Father Metiuk (the new administrator for the Western Diocese, and later Bishop Andrew) blessed the new Church with holy water and officiated at the first Divine Liturgy at St. Elia.
Years 1959 – 1961
With a new Church established, the year 1959 was one of significant activity. In January 1959 a choir was organized and soon thereafter, Professor Sergei Eremenko was invited to serve as choir director, doing so in this capacity for the next 38 years.
On March 17, 1959 the new parish was honored by the attendance of His Beatitude, The Most Reverend Metropolitan Ilarion who consecrated the Church and blessed the cornerstone.
On January 11, 1959 a group of women who had organized a Ladies Church Group held a meeting with forty-seven women in attendance. At this first meeting it was resolved that the ladies group would become affiliated with the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada (UWAC) under Patronka, Lesia Ukrainka. The women struck committees to undertake the formation of a Sunday School and for the beautification of the Church. By the end of this first year, the women had also worked diligently to form the first CYMK (Ukrainian Orthodox Youth of Canada) group for the youth of the parish.
Also in 1959, Club Trident was organized for the sole purpose of raising funds to meet the needs of the young parish. The club initially sponsored family social events as a means to raise funds and by December 11, 1959 the club was incorporated. The first meeting of Club Trident was held on February 1, 1960 followed by successful initiatives to increase club membership.
Over the years, both the UWAC and Club Trident have donated substantial sums of money to the parish along with donating specific items for the Church and the auditorium. The members of these organizations have worked vigorously in support of the development, ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the Church.
Guest priests from St. John’s Cathedral (Rev. Hrytsyna, Rev. Fyk and Rev. Krushtanowich) served at the parish until the first officially assigned priest, The Rt. Rev. Father Ambrose Chrustawka arrived effective August 1, 1959 serving for a three-year period until his relocation on August 31, 1961.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Years 1961 – 1989
On September 1, 1961 The Rt. Rev. Father Ostap Flak was assigned to St. Elia. Life in the Church took on a new essence gaining impetus in a religious, educational and cultural direction. During this period the energetic and visionary clergy, executive and parishioners provided a rich environment for substantial growth and activity, much of it oriented to development of youth programs.
Dobr. Natalka Flak, along with committed parish members devoted herself to teaching Sunday school for the next twenty years. All Sunday school students participated in the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion during the Lenten period. The children also had their own collection plate with donations eventually going toward the purchase of the chandelier that still adorns our Church today.
In 1965 Junior and Senior branches of CYMK were formed. Both branches were highly active; the CYMKivtsi received religious and drama instruction, took part in jamborees, provincial and national conventions, youth festivals, camping, competitions, concerts, debates, seminars, fund- raising events, centennial projects, amongst many other activities. The CYMKivtsi were awarded many first prizes over the years.
Sadochok had been established in 1966 with twenty-four children of preschool age registered. Over the years over one hundred ambitious children participated along with many dedicated young mothers involved.
In 1966 the Lesia Ukrainka branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada published a cookbook to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Soyuz Ukrainok of Canada.
The Rt. Rev. Ostap Flak conducted religious lectures to up to fifty Ukrainian Language School students. Numerous boys were also trained to serve at the altar.
A Ukrainian dance group was formed in 1967. With instruction and choreography initially provided by Chester Kuc, registration reached 130 dancers. In 1969, St. Elia’s School of Ukrainian Dancing was established with the children performing at numerous functions within the parish and community.
By 1969 there were eighty-one members of the Ukrainian Women’s Association, Lesia Ukrainka Branch. The women oversaw all the youth programs and engaged themselves in a multitude of other efforts including bazaar’s, bake sales and teas resulting in significant financial donations to the Church over the years.
Club Trident was active in pursuing various other fundraising efforts within the Edmonton community and also jointly with other groups such as St. John’s Fraternal Society. The club eventually purchased adjacent properties surrounding the Church enabling expanded parking facilities for the Church.
In 1977 a petition was forwarded by Church members to the Alberta government in support of the development of a Senior Citizen’s Home in the neighborhood. Following this, some Church members and members of Club Trident drew up the necessary bylaws and created a separate Society – The Ukrainian Senior Citizen’s Home of St. Elia. Property was acquired near the Church, on 66 Street and 119 Avenue and the building was erected, ready for occupancy in 1980. The residence was named St. Elia’s Pysanka Manor and has 36 self-contained suites. The residence meets the accommodation needs of seniors and those who wish to live in close proximity to the Church. St. Elia’s Pysanka Manor is now consolidated with five other residences under the Norwood Legion Manor board.
A significant milestone at St. Elia’s included the burning of the mortgage in 1963, a mere six years after the members committed themselves to constructing a Church.
The interior of the Church was enhanced with pews installed in 1961, a neon cross was mounted to the exterior of the Church in 1965, Ikonostas built by Mr. Wadim Dobrolige in 1967, chandeliers in 1968, public address system in 1971, and electronic chimes in 1981.
A very special event occurred on March 13, 1983. Deacon Alexandre Palamarchuk who had been apprenticing under the tutorship of The Rt. Rev. Father Flak, was ordained into the priesthood. His Eminence Archbishop Boris, assisted by The Rt. Rev. Father Flak and three other guest priests, participated. A celebratory banquet and program followed the occasion.
In 1988, in commemoration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Ukraine into the Holy Orthodox Faith, new bronze doors were installed to the entrance of the Church. As well, the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Lesia Ukrainka branch undertook a project of commemoration that included embroidering new Church cloths and sewing other new gold cloths for the altar, tetrapod and side tables in the Church.
After devoting 28 years to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Elia, The Rt. Rev. Father Ostap Flak retired in 1989. Under his leadership and with the devotion and hard work of all parishioners, incredible achievements took place at St. Elia’s. The energy and commitment of the parishioners involved during these years was immense, resulting in a solid foundation for a vibrant parish serving the Orthodox faithful of northeast Edmonton and surrounding area.
Years 1989 – 1999
On October 1, 1989 The Right Rev. Father George Turzansky was tentatively assigned to St. Elia pending a further appointment. This was followed by the appointment of Very Rev. Father Mikolaj Derewianka effective August 1, 1991. The Church choir was enhanced with the addition of Dobr. Evehenia, Maria, Natalia and Pavlo. Additionally, their voices as a quartet were enjoyed on many other occasions.
The year 1992 saw a new facelift to the exterior of the Church, complete with domes, brick siding, new steps, an elevator permitting wheelchair accessibility to the Church and to the auditorium, and new windows were installed. The majestic bronze doors gracing the Church entrance were complemented by all the exterior renovations which clearly pronounced that St. Elia was visibly indeed a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The newly renovated Church was re- dedicated on October 25, 1992 by His Eminence Archbishop John.
Efforts were also made to promote more of a family atmosphere within the congregation. In 1991 the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Lesia Ukrainka Branch began to host monthly fellowship luncheons following Divine Liturgy enabling members and guests to visit and become further acquainted with each other.
The first edition of a Church Directory was created in 1994 commemorating the Year of the Ukrainian Orthodox Family as proclaimed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. The directory included a history of St. Elia documenting key milestones and achievements, pictures of the Church, the board, elders, Ukrainian Women’s Association branch, Pysanka Manor Board, the Church Choir and all members of the congregation.
Also in 1994, on August 6th the first stained glass piece was installed in the choir loft window.
The St. Elia Pysanka Manor was consolidated with other senior residences under the Norwood Legion Manor Board in 1994. St. Elia retained a specific board and held two seats on the Norwood Legion Manor Board enabling an ongoing influence to maintain a Ukrainian identity for the residence.
In October 1995 Church (Sunday) School was reinstated for the children of St. Elia at the initiation of involved parish members.
Following a proposal by Very Rev. Father Mikolaj Derewianka, Certificates of Merit were bestowed upon individual members of the parish in 1995 and 1996 in recognition and appreciation of the contributions they had made.
In 1997 further landscaping was completed and adjacent properties were developed for use as two overflow parking lots for the Church.
On September 28, 1997 St. Elia celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a program and Hierarchal Divine Liturgy in which Very Rev. Father Mikolaj Derewianka was adorned with a jeweled cross by His Beatitude Metropolitan Wasyly. A special banquet and program followed. Greetings from the Consistory were given by The Right Rev. Father Dr. Oleg Krawchenko and greetings from the Western Diocese were provided by His Eminence Archbishop John. An anniversary booklet was published in commemoration of the 40th Anniversary covering the history of the Church from its inception in 1957 to 1997.
On May 16, 1999 the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Lesia Ukrainka Branch celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Branch with a special program following the Divine Liturgy. A blessing was provided by His Eminence Archbishop John, a special commemorative pin was designed and distributed, a commemorative booklet was created and commemorative group photographs were unveiled. On this occasion, numerous long-term members of the Branch were recognized with certificates from the National UWAC. A gift of an Icon – the Synaxix of the Metropolitans of Kyiw was presented from the women to the Church. In turn, the Branch was delighted to receive a gift of a painting from the Flowers of the Bible series from the Church board.
On July 31, 1999 Very Rev. Father Mikolaj Derewianka was reassigned followed by the appointment of Very Rev. Father George Podtepa to St. Elia on August 1, 1999.
INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM: YEAR 2000 AND BEYOND
Entering the new millennium, the parish has 175 members including several young families. Junior CYMK (Ukrainian Orthodox Youth of Canada) was again rejuvenated and has grown to the extent that each year, an increasing number of children are registered. The focus on the youth was further addressed by establishing Youth Sunday which is the first Sunday of each month. On this day, the Divine Liturgy is done fully in the English language. In the year 2003 a second English language service has been introduced on the third Sunday of each month.
The parish continued exploring ways to enhance the Church and improved communication was targeted as a new goal in the year 2000. Several strategies were considered, with one being to commemorate the new millennium by undertaking a special project involving the erection of a large outdoor sign by the Church to enable posting of services and upcoming special events. This millennium project was jointly funded by the Lesia Ukrainka Branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada and by Club Trident. The outdoor sign was blessed by His Eminence, Archbishop John in October, 2000.
The library of the Church has also become the focus of renewed growth and expansion with the addition of new materials including books in the English and Ukrainian languages, videos, and new bookshelves, all entirely funded by donations from Club Trident.
Also in commemoration of the millennium, individual parishioners and Club Trident donated a significant number of new Prayer Books prepared by the Joint Liturgical Commission of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine in 2000. Positioned amongst all the pews of the Church, the new Prayer Books are a source of spiritual nourishment for our Faithful.
The parish has taken on the challenge of planning for the future in the new millennium. In the year 2003 St. Elia’s is exploring the feasibility of further renovations with a potential expansion to the Church auditorium.